Reactor damaged in chemical mishap

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007
— An adverse reaction when mixing chemicals Tuesday night caused $50,000 damage to a $3.3 million reactor at Evonik, formerly Degussa Goldschmidt Chemical.

Janesville fire and police were dispatched at 8:52 p.m. to 900 S. Palm St. for an automatic alarm with water flow activation.

Employees met firefighters at the company’s gate entrance telling them there was a pressure reaction.

The reactor is not housed in the main building but in one of 9 others on the site. Once inside the area where employees mix chemicals to formulate the final product, firefighters found scorching on the reactor vessel and a skylight blown out, said Craig Jones, shift commander at the Janesville Fire Department.

Fire crews also found some smoldering around a metal door, on the roof of the reactor, so they had to disassemble a door and framework to get to that area, Jones said.

It still is not known why the pressure reaction set off.

“What caused the reaction is under investigation by Evonik,” Jones said.

No employees or firefighters were injured in the incident, Jones said.

What is known is that employees were monitoring the reactor before it set off, Jones said.

“These reactors are monitored so closely, and almost second by second. There’s always an operator watching all the different aspects of this mixing process while it’s going on.

“Chemical plants are really safety-oriented and take everything serious,” he said.

This really was “a minor incident,” Jones said, as far as what happened with the pressure reaction.

But, he said, “Evonik is taking it seriously because they want to know what happened in their process and because they have damage.”

Last updated: 10:07 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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